Going grid neutral

After a recent visit to Manchester-based UAP, Glass Times explores the company’s efforts to reduce its environmental footprint and become grid neutral.

For almost 20 years, David Jennings, CEO of UAP, has considered the environmental impact of his company. Often treated as a ‘softer’ element in business, David and his management team recognise the wider benefits of being environmentally-aware.

“As a business you can save money, boost credibility as an ethical supplier and help the environment,” David said.

UAP’s environmental approach was borne out of necessity rather than environmental concern. When David first started UAP, there was no spare cash and so the company recycled everything it could for packaging rather than buying new. This became the norm, and today the company uses cardboard shredders to shred old packaging to re-use as infill packing material.

As the business has developed, so too has the company’s adoption of environmental methods and technologies. Investment which has economic, energy and efficiency benefits; advantages that can be shared with customers.

At its base in Whitefield, UAP has over 50,000ft2 of warehousing and offices over six buildings. Last December, the figure for power and heating was £650. That equates to around £100 per building per month.

UAP has achieved this by installing low energy features, where possible. As offices and warehouses are refurbished, David has used the opportunity to add new eco-technology.

“When we extended our warehousing from one to two, we undertook extensive renovation work and used the opportunity to add 24kW of solar power,” David said. “We quickly realised that the business was benefitting from these investments with lower energy bills.”

When the company built the modern extension to unit one, it added 150mm of roof insulation rather than the standard 100mm, helping to tackle a common issue in commercial buildings – heat loss. The additional cost of the insulation was recouped through lower heating bills.

Thermodynamic water heating which links to the solar panels was also installed and a further 12kW of solar panels added to the roof.

“More recently, we have increased our solar power capacity by 48kW across our six buildings, giving us a total of 84kW,” David said. “Once we can harness and retain the solar power that we generate during non-work periods, such as weekends, using battery storage, then we believe we will be virtually grid neutral.”

David points out that being environmentally aware doesn’t have to cost the earth.

“As light bulbs and fittings get replaced, we do so with low energy equivalents,” he said.

The company has also installed EV charging units for its vehicles, plus one for customer use. Generally, these are powered by solar generation.

One of the core values of UAP is to promote equality and diversity, and to give something back to the community. Its environmental endeavours have extended to regional environmental and community issues including protection of a local reservoir habit.

Internationally, the business has been officially confirmed as having offset all emissions by UK-registered charity, Plant a Tree Today (PATT) Foundation. So far, the company has funded the planting of over 56,000 trees over the course of a three-year reforestation programme in the Far East.